CHESTER exited the FA Trophy after a fourth successive game without scoring saw them lose 2-0 at home to North West rivals Southport.

The Blues' long unbeaten run of 11 games now seems a distant memory with Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley's tired squad looking desperately in need of an overhaul before the busy festive period takes its toll.

In truth neither boss will probably mind departing this year's competition with the old adage about concentrating on the league ringing true with a play off berth certainly achievable.

But given the Blues have hit a dispiriting patch of bad form at a crucial stage of the season this was hardly a performance to give supporters hope that a quick turnaround is possible especially when Chester will face in form Southport two more times in the league in the next month.

Four corners for the visitors in the first ten minutes suggested this would be a far better game than Saturday's stinker but despite the early Southport dominance it was Chester who fashioned the first chance after Grant Shenton's long kick from goal found Dan Mooney lurking on the edge of the area only for Daniel Hanford to smother his shot.

On 13 minutes Devam Green's long range drive whistled wide for Southport as the hosts struggled to close their opponents down until a more direct style began to pay dividends as the half progressed leading to three successive Blues corners and a good opportunity for Adam Dawson after Anthony Dudley had dribbled his way into the area.

The home pressure continued with a Mooney corner curling beyond the keeper and hitting the bar before the rebound found Dawson whose 20 yard shot deflected into Hanford's gloves.

Moments later Chester really should have taken the lead after a great ball from Gary Roberts found Dudley down the right whose cross shot evaded everyone on its journey along the goal line.

As the half time whistle went the realisation dawned that some of the long-suffering fans present had now watched 135 minutes of goalless football with the looming presence of extra time and penalties doing little to improve the mood of both sets of shivering supporters.

Thankfully a saviour came but sadly it wasn't wearing Blue when after seven minutes of a scrappy half Southport skipper David Morgan picked up a lose ball in midfield and advanced on the Chester area before his speculative 30 yard punt looped beyond a flat-footed Shenton for an unlikely opener.

Like the proverbial bus a second Sandgrounder goal quickly followed with former Chester player Jordan Archer gleefully accepting a dreadful backpass from Gary Stopforth, and with the freedom of the penalty area, slotted past Shenton.

It was a dreadful two minute spell for Chester who tried to rouse themselves after the hour with a triple substitution as Deane Smalley, Craig Mahon and Lloyd Marsh-Hughes came on for Mooney, Dawson and the disappointing Luke Jordan.

Mahon immediately made an impact winning a couple of free kicks, the second of which was curled just over by Roberts as Chester had a rare sight of goal.

As the game entered its final stages Smalley wasted a good chance for a consolation after breaking clear of the resolute Southport defence after good work from Marsh-Hughes only to his shot saved by Hanford.

So Chester's dreams of Wembley are over for another season with Blues supporters facing a potentially stressful December unless things change. And fast.

Chester: Shenton, Grand, Thomson, Howson, Livesey, Roberts, Stopforth, Dawson (Smalley 66), Dudley, Jordan (Mahon 66), Mooney (Marsh-Hughes 66). Subs not used: King, Noble.

Southport: Hanford, Richards, Ogle, Morgan, Astles, Winnard, Charles (Homson-Smith 76), Wood, Green (Mueller 87), Archer, Bauress (Parry 76). Subs not used: Sampson, Tibbetts.

Attendance: 654.

Referee: James Bell.